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10/18/2017

Understanding Google’s Algorithm

search resultsWe all know that Google tells us that there are more than 200 different signals that are used to determine the ranking of the search results.  We are very familiar with many of these signals like keywords, domain name, page rank, inbound links, longevity of a website, traffic, click through rate, etc.  Each of these signals carry different weight and some signals can be superseded by other signals.  Let me explain.

Longevity is a ranking signal.  A website that has been around for a long time will score points over a brand new website that just came online a few minutes ago.  But obviously the age of a website can’t be the only factor.  Otherwise, new websites would never have a chance.  So Google looks at other signals.  A new website that is getting a ton of traffic and positive social signals can quickly compete and outrank the older website.

Another long established signal is page rank.  A website that has a high page ranking has an easier time of getting its content to rank on page one of the search results than a website with a low page rank.  However, Google has realized that a website with low page rank can also have outstanding content so it is also now looking at other factors like positive social signals and possible the expertise of the author.

I first encountered the flexibility of these shifting Google algorithms in my early days of hands on local SEO.  I worked with many new businesses that were just starting and wanted to be on the first page of the search results in what was then a 10 pack for local listings.

The challenge was that many established business with inbound links already occupied the top positions.  So I turned to other ranking indicators.  I optimized both the local Google listing and the clients website.  Although we were weak in some signals we excelled in other signals and achieved top rankings.

I began to look at the Google algorithm as a cumulative score.  If a client scored low in one area like longevity or inbound links they could overcome that short coming by being stronger with keywords and traffic.

The reason I’m writing this article is to take away the excuses.  I hear knowledgeable people in SEO saying that somebody ranks higher than them because they have a better domain name, or better page rank.

Domain names are helpful.  It is one of the first signals to tell the Google bot what the domain is about, but it’s only that.  It is only a traffic sign on the digital highway that gives Google a heads up on the content in the website.  If that content isn’t relevant to a searcher’s query and pass other algorithmic conditions, Google will not rank it high in the search results.  By the same token, content on another site with a non-related domain name can get top rankings if it excels in other ranking signals.

I know this is an oversimplification, but it is a place to start:

The first goal in top rankings is to make it easy for Google to find your content.  This can be done with domain names, but more often with page titles and meta description.

The next requirement is that your content is relevant to the search words.  If a person is searching for a keyword that keyword should be in your content and more than once.  Google needs to know that your content is relevant to the search terms.  And the more relevant the better.

Finally, Google needs to know that it can trust your content.  This is done by page rank, but it also can be accomplished with positive social signals like sharing, comments, and plus ones.  There is also growing evidence that Google has created a way to rank the expertise of authors.

 

SEO for Semantic Search

SEO for Semantic SearchSemantic Search is a hot topic right now and, of course, SEO is just as important to the person who want top ranking in the search results.  So it is only natural that some Internet marketers promote SEO for semantic search.  However, I don’t think semantic search will necessarily impact the best practices for SEO that most SEO consultants have been employing over the last 6 months.  Let me explain.

 

Semantic Seach

Before we begin, we should take a closer look at semantic search.  Mashable defines semantic search:

Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable dataspace, whether on the Web or within a closed system, to generate more relevant results.

Semantic search focuses on the person doing the search.  Google and other search engines would like to know as much as possible about the person searching so that they can deliver the best possible search results.

For example if I have been search for baseball scores and I then search for “Twins” I will get information on the major baseball league Minnesota Twins.  However, if I have been searching for baby names and parenting advice I’m more likely to get info on babies born at the same time.

Semantic search is designed to give people the exact information that they are looking for based on the history of the person searching and the context of the search.

The impact on search is that it will drive more accurate traffic to content. As a result, the actual use of semantic search by search engines shouldn’t really change one’s approach to SEO.

SEO in the ERA of Semantic Search

However, it is true that ranking signals for top search results are changing, not because of semantic search but rather Google’s desire for more accurate indicators.  Google previously put a great deal of weight on the credibility of a website as an indicator in the search algorithm.  But, now they are also factoring social signals.  Many people working in SEO will be able to tell you about G+ having a positive impact on search results.

Two factors seem to be at work.

  • Google Authorship
  • Sharing content or links to content on G+ that get positive social signals -
    +1′s, comments, and shares

It’s becoming very apparent that prolific authors of content that gets positive social signals tend to rank higher in the search results.  As the author’s reputation for credible responsible content grows, their content begins to immediately rank high in the search results without social signals, but rather based on the author’s history.

Keywords As Important As Ever in Semantic Search

But for this to happen, there is one very important critical factor that is overlooked in all the hype for semantic search and social signals being the new SEO, and that is basic SEO.

Keywords are still a very essential ingredient in search optimization.  Google has to know that your content is relevant to the search query and the easiest way for the little Google bot to do that is that if keywords in the search query are also featured in the content.

It is still helpful to Include keywords in:

  • page title
  • h1 or h2 tags
  • mentioned at least two times in the text

Bottom Line of SEO and Semantic Search

Yes, semantic search is growing.  Semantic search returns searches relevant to the searchers history and context of the search.

The best SEO techniques are the one’s you should already be using.

  • Set up Google Authorship
  • Create a body of content that demonstrates your expertise
  • Create relationships on G+ that will interact with your content
  • Create content relevant to a searchers query by using appropriate keywords
  • Share your content on G+ for many indexing and social interaction

 

Where’s the Google Juice

G+ Tourist Searching for Google JuiceMeet the G+ Tourists.  They live over on Facebook.  That’s where they play and work with their friends and family.  That’s where they strive to grow their fan base.  But lately they’ve been hearing about the wonders of Google Plus.  And what attracts them the most is that they’ve heard there is a mysterious benefit of participating on Google Plus, a Google juice, which will help their content rank higher in the search results.

The G+ Tourist

So, almost as if on a pilgrimage, they trek over to Google to dip their toes in the mysterious powerful waters of Google Plus.  They make a few posts and eager watch their blog posts to see if they begin to rank higher in the search results.  Some people say they see a slight improvement but many are leery that this so called Google Juice even exists.  They see no improvement in their search results and nobody clicks on their promos and calls to action.  They declare Google Plus a ghost town.

The problem is they don’t understand Google Plus.  Now, I’m not faulting these tourists.  Most of us here on Google Plus started on Facebook.  It met certain social needs.  But to take advantage of what Google has to offer you have to understand it.

Google Plus can help improve the rankings of your content in the search results.  But it doesn’t just happen by visiting Google and sharing a few posts or accumulating hundreds or even thousands of followers.  Basic SEO principles are still at work.

Personal Search Results

We will start with personal search results.  Since Google introduced Search Plus Your World the search results can now include posts from G+.  But there are two very important caveats.

The first is that in most cases only the people that have you in a circle will see your Google Plus posts in the search results.  True, it is possible for everybody in the world to see your public G+ post, but you have to be a  pretty heavy hitter with a lot of clout for your personal Google Plus post to appear in the regular search results.  For most of us, only the people who circle us will see our Google Plus posts and they will be identified with a feint grey icon.

The second requirement is that the post include keywords relevant to the search terms.  It’s just like regular search.  If somebody is searching a specific word or phrase, it is important that word or phrase is at the beginning of the post.  As obvious as this seems, so many people don’t include keywords that Google can latch onto when returning search results.

Regular Organic Search Results

However, the real benefit of Google Plus is the ability to improve the rankings of our blog content.  But again, our blog content isn’t just going to start ranking higher by randomly posting about miscellaneous topics on Google Plus. To get top rankings the blog content should be optimized.  There are two elements of Google search.

Relevant

The first is relevance.  For Google to return content in the search results it has to be relevant to the search query.  Again if somebody is searching a specific word or phrase, that keyword or phrase should be in your content.  Google has to know your content is the most relevant to the search string to position your content at the top of the search results.  All the Google Plus activity in the world isn’t going to change this.  Google is staking it’s reputation on returning the most relevant answer to a searchers question.

Reliable

The content has to also be good.  This is where Google Plus helps. It helps measure the quality of the content.

In the past Google determined the quality of content by the quality of a website, essentially Page Rank.  One measurement was how many inbound links a website had.  Google thought that if a site had many inbound links, especially from reputable sources, the site must be good.

Now Google is also including social signals. So the key to Google juice is to share your blog content on Google Plus so that people can vote on it in the form of +1′s, comments, and by sharing it.

When you share your blog post it is immediately indexed in Google’s search results.  The more relevant and reliable your content is the better it will rank in the search results.

How to Get Google Juice

So to give your content a Google Plus boost

  • Start with optimized content with relevant keywords
  • Create relationships in Google Plus. A network of people who will interact with the content you post.
  • Create a Google Plus Post and link to your content so people can comment on the content, give it +1′s and share it.

It may happen very quickly or take awhile, but as your content receives positive social attention it will start climibing up the rankings.

New Google Maps and Local SEO

Local SEO and Google MapsGoogle Maps are changing. The map is now the interface and the side bar with the list of 10 businesses is gone.

As a Local SEO consultant I was eager to see what impact this would have on local search. It looks good for some businesses and bad for others.

In this post I will take a closer look at the new Google Map and it’s effect on local SEO.

In the new Google Map the search bar is right on the map. You enter your search terms and instead of returning a top 10 list and locations on an adjacent map, you simply see the businesses you are searching for on a large map.  There is no visible list of businesses.  But that doesn’t mean that local search engine optimization isn’t playing a very important role.

auto insurance scottsdale

The map above is the search results for a search of “auto insurance Scottsdale”.  On the map we see several insurance companies in bold print and we also see many red dots representing other insurance businesses.

Google’s search algorithm determines whether a business appears on the map with it’s name in bold print or if that business appears only as a red dot.  Obviously, local search optimization is more important now than ever.  At least with searches like this on a PC desktop.  If you want your business to appear on the map in bold print you need to meet the SEO requirements of Google’s search algorithm.

Local Search Results Are Now Wider in Scope

Also notice, I did a search for auto insurance in Scottsdale and the map is showing me all of Phoenix and not just the small community of Scottsdale.

This is both good and bad.  The bad is it steps up the competition for local search.  In the former Google map that presented a list of the search results it narrowed the competition by narrowing the search just to the community searched.  But in this new desktop search we are seeing leading optimized businesses in a much wider geographical area.  If you are at the top of the search list in your community you will easily be seen.  But if you are less optimized you are going to fade into a red dot in the background.

Another positive aspect is that businesses who serve a much wider geographical area than their specific community can more easily be seen in the search results.  In the past this has been frustrating for many small businesses.  They could rank well in their small community but they couldn’t get good rankings in the larger metropolitan area because there weren’t located near the center of the town.  Now with good optimization techniques this might be easier.

However, it is important to point out that although this map is showing search results all across the larger metropolitan area of Phoenix the search results will vary on the specifics of the search.  For example, in this case a search of “auto insurance Glendale” or “auto insurance Phoenix” will showcase different businesses.  But if a business is really strong it will appear in bold in many different searches.

There Is a Hidden List of Top Ten Search Results

Although the new Google Maps doesn’t initially show the list of 10 businesses as the previous maps did, there is still a list.

Beneath the search box there is a link that says, “Go to list of top results”.

If you click on that link there is a nice clean list of the first top ten businesses and many more linked pages of results at the bottom.

However, at least right now, there is a slight shortcoming in this feature.  My initial search was for “auto insurance Scottsdale” but when I click on the top results list the search parameters change and I get a list of the top results for greater Phoenix.  So this could hurt the small business that is dependent on local qualifier, like Scottsdale, for search ranking.

New Maps Will Most Impact Local SEO for Mobile

The biggest impact of the new Google Maps on local SEO will be with mobile.  People looking for businesses on their mobile phones will likely use Google Maps, so it will be important for a business to be fully optimized to prominently appear on the maps.

However, people search on their desktop computer will probably most often use basic search or G+ Local rather than Google Maps.  And right now, it is not known how much the changes to Google maps will affect those tools.

 

 

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Does the Number of G+ Followers Matter?

circle me 3Yes, the more G+ followers you have the better. I know there are some leading social media thinkers that say it doesn’t impact your Google Profile Page rank and that may be true although all the people that I see that have a higher page rank than me also have more followers than me. But this blog post isn’t about that.

The Hidden Marketing Power of G+

In this blog post I want to talk about a largely overlooked benefit of Google Plus and that is  the fact that it is possible for the posts you create in Google Plus to appear in Google’s search results.  I’m sure you have seen this.  You conduct a search and you discover one of your Google Plus posts with a small gray icon in front of it.  This can be exciting, but what’s even better is that is likely that this post is also visible in the search results for all of the people that have you in one of their Google Plus Circles.  So, the more people that have you in a circle, the more people that are likely to see your G+ content in the search results.

I have created a video that shows you exactly how to make sure that your G+ content appears on the first page of the search results for both you and the people who follow you.  To briefly recap, include keywords in your G+ posts.  If you want people to find your content when they search for a “house for sale” make sure that “house for sale” is in your G+ post.  If you want them to find you when they search for “math tutor” than make sure that “math tutor” is in your post.

Amazingly, so many people don’t do this.  The majority of G+ posts are short vague comments about a link to some story on the Internet.  And there is nothing wrong with this.  It’s fun to see a great story and want to share it with your friends and followers.  But by judiciously using a few keywords you could get your content to appear in Google’s search results for the people that have you in a circle.  And the more people that have you in a circle, the more people that might possibly see your content.

Imagine if you were a real estate agent and most of your community had you in a circle.  All you would have to do is create a post including the keywords, “house for sale + city” and when anybody who had you in a circle searched for a house for sale in your city they would see your G+ post.

And almost any profession can use this technique.  If you have an optimized Google Plus post it will appear in the search results for the people who have you in a circle.  If you are a social media consultant create a Google Plus post optimized for social media consultant and all the people who have you in a circle will see it.  If you are a cosmetic dentist create a few posts optimized for cosmetic dentist.

Obviously, every post you create doesn’t have to be optimized to appear in the search results, but create a few focused on your keywords that will drive traffic to you, your blog or website.

And just as obvious, this will not be your major source of traffic.  But it is a source of traffic that shouldn’t be ignored.  It’s just like handing out cards at a networking event.  You don’t know who will respond, but often if just a few people respond it is enough.

The Secret is To Get Circled

The secret is to get as many potential customers as possible to circle you.  You’ve probably heard about the usual traditional ways to get circled.  Create good content and participate on Google Plus.  Join communities and respond to and share other people’s post.  I have a series of videos that I will be sharing soon with helpful techniques to get people to circle you.

In the meantime, if you don’t have a Google Plus badge on your blog or website get one. You can do so here.  It makes it easy for people to circle you.

So go out there and get circled!


How to Get Your Google Plus Hangouts in the Search Results

Google Plus HangoutsDo you want your recorded Google Plus Hangouts to appear in the search results when people search with relevant keywords?  It’s possible.  The recording of a Google Plus Hangout is just like an other video on YouTube, you can optimize it for better ranking in the search results.

Locate the recording of your hangout on YouTube by navigating to your YouTube channel and clicking on video manager.  Do this by clicking on the drop down arrow to the right of your profile photo in the upper right and selecting video manager.

YouTube Video Manager

When you click on video manager a screen with all of your videos will appear.  Locate your Google Plus Hangout and click edit.

YouTube Video Manager list of Videos

This opens another window where you can optimize the metadata for your Google Plus Hangout.

Start with the title.  I’d skip a creative title and create a title that contains the exact keywords somebody might use when searching for the type of information contained in Metadata for Youtube videosyour hangout.  My simple formula is “When people are search for “x” I want them to find me and then define “x”.  For example, “When people are searching for, Google Plus Hangout Training I want them to find my hangout in the search results”.  And my keyword would be “Google Plus Hangout Training”.  So I would use these keywords as the the title of the video.

Next, fill out the description.  Again using your keywords and variations of the keywords, which in our example would be “Google Plus Hangout Training.”  And be sure to make the description conversational putting your most important information first.  Also avoid keyword stuffing.

The next step is to enter tags.  The popular sentiment is that Google doesn’t use keywords or tags like this for search rankings.  But I feel that if Google is asking for info it will probably factor into the algorithm no matter how slight.  So in my example I would enter, Google Plus, Google Plus Hangout Training, Hangout Training.

Finally, share your hangout on Google Plus with an introduction that includes the keywords.  It has helped me to get YouTube videos, including a Hangout, to quickly rank on the first page of the search results.

At this point, it is a little too late for this tip, but remember, that Google is now transcribing hangouts.  I can’t say for certain, but it’s a possibility that a little Google bot is reading the content of the transcript and indexing the information to know what the hangout is about.  It would make sense that this content could contribute to Google’s algorithm for ranking.  So think about using your keywords within your hangout, even if it is only to announce the title of the hangout.  And, of course, be sure to use the keywords conversationally.  You don’t want your viewers to think you are some kind of Google Plus whack job.

Interesting Google Authorship Discovery

Google AuthorshipI was preparing a tutorial on Google Authorship today and discovered something that Google Authorship fans might find interesting.  I, personally, wanted to review the Google format when Google linked an author to an article in the search results.  I searched for my biography which in the past implemented my Google Authorship credentials with my by line, number of fans, and photo.  But this time I was in for a shock.

The article was still in the number one position in the search results.  But none of the usual Google authorship stuff was still there, no by line, no photo.  Self doubt crept in.  Was Google mad at me?  Did I do something wrong?  Was authorship credentials that fleeting?

Search results without Google Authorship

Google Authorship Not Showing

 

I asked a friend to search my key words and I’m glad I did.  Her search reflected the Google Authorship accouterments.  It had my by line and photo.

Google Authorship Showing

Google Authorship Showing

 

The short of this, The Google Authorship info on your articles may not show up in your own search results.  I’ve also seen this happen in personal search results.

 

Solution to the Hangout Problem in G+ Communities

hangouts in communites

Hangout Problems

Currently, launching a hangout on a community page is less than desirable. There is a convenient “Start a new hangout” button in the right column which one would assume you could either launch the usual hangout that we experience on our home page, or possibly since it is in a different location on the community page, launch a hangout just for the community.

But neither of these scenarios unfold. When you click on the “Start a new hangout” button you are immediately swept into a hangout without warning which is open to the public. And you will quickly find people from all over the world dropping in on your hangout whether they speak your language or not.

This is obviously a bug that Google will surely fix and maybe do so faster than later if they read this article which will show you how you can now host a successful hangout in your G+ community.

First, create a hangout event. In the left column beneath the categories you created for your community is a link to Events. Click it and it launches a page in your community where you can create an event.

Click the red Create Event button and fill in the details; title of the event, date, and time, and recipients of this event notice which is already populated with with a button representing the community.

Then click Event Options and schedule a hangout by clicking on Advanced Options.

In Advanced options you have the choice of creating a regular Google+ hangout or a hangout on air.
Choose regular hangout. If you select hangout on air, it will no longer be a community event but rather a public event.

After you select G+ Hangout you can send out the Event Invites.

As soon as you do this a community event is created with a blue Join Hangout button. Even though the Hangout event may be scheduled for some time in the future you can click on the blue Join hangout button and launch a hangout at any time. Other people in the community can also click the button and join the hangout.

All they have to do is navigate to the community page, click events, and then click on the blue “Join hangout button.”
Scheduling a hangout for a future date creates a persistent link to the hangout that you can send to people and if they have permissions to the hangout they can click on the link and easily join the hangout.

I wonder if Google could replace the code for the Hangout button on the community page with the code for the hangout button on the event page and solve the community hangout problem.

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